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BEST FACE FORWARD
Michael Bamberger
December 30, 1996
You know going in that Albert Belle, the great slugger, can be temperamental. You know he doesn't like reporters, he despises interviews, he hates interruptions. You are determined to get off on the right foot with him; you want your story to be fair and honest and balanced. You go to a couple of his teammates—Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar Jr.—and ask them the best way to approach Belle. This is in March, during spring training, when everything is fresh and light, when Belle is still with the Cleveland Indians. Alomar puts in a good word for you. Lofton does the same. You wait for the right moment. Alomar tells you the right moment has arrived.
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December 30, 1996

Best Face Forward

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You know going in that Albert Belle, the great slugger, can be temperamental. You know he doesn't like reporters, he despises interviews, he hates interruptions. You are determined to get off on the right foot with him; you want your story to be fair and honest and balanced. You go to a couple of his teammates—Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar Jr.—and ask them the best way to approach Belle. This is in March, during spring training, when everything is fresh and light, when Belle is still with the Cleveland Indians. Alomar puts in a good word for you. Lofton does the same. You wait for the right moment. Alomar tells you the right moment has arrived.

You approach Belle gingerly. As far as you can tell, he's not doing anything. He's not doing a crossword puzzle. (You have been warned not to interfere when he's doing crossword puzzles.) He's not reading. He's not playing chess. He's not listening to music. He's in front of his locker, and he's doing, basically, nothing. You work your way over. Your face is about three feet from his. With all the diplomacy and grace you can muster, you introduce yourself, telling the man your name and the name of your publication. You say, "Do you think at some point we might be able to talk?"

Belle's eyes narrow. His nose wrinkles. His chest, already massive, broadens. Finally, he opens his mouth and snarls, " SPORTS ILLUSTRATED can kiss my black ass." He turns and walks away. You get out your pen. Your notebook is enriched by seven words.

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